Behavior Basics 39 and 40: End of Week Wrap-Up

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behav basics 39 (2)39. A conditioned reinforcer must be clear, precise and consistent.

In Behavior Basics 37 and 38, we discussed how a sharp, quick sound or flash of light is the best tool for “marking” a behavior.  With the press of a finger, a TAGteach tagger can precisely mark even a split second of a desired behavior.  But why is consistency important?  Let’s remember that the “tag” (or click) sound is a conditioned reinforcer.  The definition of the word “conditioned” states that the object is characterized by “predictable” or “consistent” patterns.  There are two features of the tag that we want to be consistent for the learner: (1) the tag means success!  The child did something right, and (2) the tag means a reinforcer (treat, reward) is coming.  When a child knows that the tag always means these two things, she has a great strategy for learning:  just listen, pay attention, try again, feel free to experiment, and enjoy all the reinforcements delivered during the process.  The tag creates a path forward for the child because it always and only means those two things – success and reinforcement.

behav basics 4040. The best conditioned reinforcer for a child with autism is a click sound.

A click sound is an excellent conditioned reinforcer because of the features mentioned above in Behavior Basic 39: it is quick, precise and consistent.  The click (or “tag”) predictably means two things:  success and reinforcement.   Another feature of the click is that because of its precision and speed, it can only mark one small behavior (physical movement of the body) at a time.  This feature ensures that the child will not be asked to do something that is too complex for her.  The tag can only mark one movement, not two or three, so the instructor or teacher has to think about a task carefully and break it down into small steps that the child can do.  This protects the child from being overwhelmed with difficult demands. With time and experience, the child develops trust that she will only be presented with a task she can comfortably perform, and only for the length of time that she can comfortably perform it.  The click sound is the best sound because it is quick, precise and targeted.

REMINDER:  This concludes the wrap-up of Behavior Basics for the week.  Please remember the schedule: On the release date of each module, the Behavior Basics for that module will be compiled into a PDF ebook available from our blog and Facebook page. Click on this link to download the entire series of 42 Behavior Basics for free: http://statictab.com/m7bizwt.


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Martha Gabler

Autism parent. Director, Kids' Learning Workshop LLC. Author of Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism.

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